Little Deer,
Earth Mother
(self-produced, 1999)

Little Deer's music is probably not what you'd expect -- traditional drumming and lyrics -- from a Native American singer. There are traditional pieces on this disc, but interspersed with other musical styles, and in some cases traditional lyrics have been arranged with rhythms of other places -- the Caribbean, Middle East and Africa. The music found on this disc is "as diverse as Little Deer's own background," to quote the truthfully set words on the disc cover.

Little Deer has led an interesting life, which also provides a bottomless well of experience to draw upon for her writing. Maribeth, as she is also known, is of Aniyvwiya (Tsalgi or Cherokee) and European (German, French and Irish) descent. She grew up in the States, Asia, and Europe, and studied the religions and cultures of those areas. She spent a part of her childhood in war-torn Vietnam, learning about racism, poverty, war and cultural differences. Not surprisingly, Maribeth became a counsellor. She has degrees in counsellor education, psychology, social work, ancient Egyptian theology and Native American religions. A very unique history, and one which has only served to enrich her life and music.

"Trail of Tears" is an affecting piece which touches on one of the saddest episodes of the United States history. The Cherokee were taken from their home -- men, women and children -- and herded into makeshift forts with minimal facilities and food. And if that wasn't enough, they were then forced to march a thousand miles. About 4,000 Cherokee died as a result of this removal. The route they traversed and the journey itself became known as "The Trail of Tears," or as a direct translation from the Cherokee language, "Nunn daul Tsuny -- The Trail Where They Cried."

"Half-Breed's Lament" is reminiscent of early rock, the electric guitar prominently featured and providing a hard razor edge to the truth of the lyrics. "Only God should judge the life that I live... / racist remarks / bigotry all around...." This world can be cold to some races and cultures, but nowhere is it colder than where the half-breed is concerned. It is not the lineage and color that should matter, after all, for they don't make the measure of a man or woman.

"Creation Honoring Song/Ancestor Spirit Calling Song" is a traditional Cherokee piece, and deeply reaching even though it is one of the shortest tracks on the disc. A drum beat keeps the rhythm and gives the vocals of Little Deer something to twine about and enrich. Using the miracle of today's recording equipment, Little Deer provides her own backing vocals, creating an almost eerie sound. The drumbeat is joined with a conga, and the track leaves you with a shiver of reverence stirring within your soul.

All in all, I'd have to say this disc is a unique work by a very talented woman. It isn't for everyone, but I'd say a great deal of people would enjoy this effort. Little Deer was nominated for Best Folk Artist at the Native American Music Awards, and this disc really lets you hear why.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 1 December 2001

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